two inches ivory

Essay by aly520University, Master's November 2014

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Limited World of Jane Auston

In a letter to her niece, Jane Austen wrote, "Three or four families in a country village is the very thing to work on." Those three or four families are the landed gentry, the upper classes, the lower classes, the industrial masses, or may be the agricultural labourers. Write ups of Jane Auston suggest limited range of her subject matter. She herself referred to her work as "Two inches of ivory." Her novels encompass a chosen section of society she knows deeply. However, her exclusions and limitations are deliberate.

Pride and Prejudice also owes a narrow physical setting. The story revolves around Netherfield, Longbourn, Hunsford Parsonage, Meryton and Pemberley. There is no reference to nature itself. Jane Austen imprisoned her characters indoors. Her settings are the drawing rooms, ball rooms, parks and gardens of a civilized leisure class.

She allows nothing terrible to happen, sometimes, elopements are introduced, though. Edward Fitzgerald rightly observes,"she never goes out of the parlour." Another limitation of her novels is the feminization of her novels. Men do not appear except in the company of women. Women play a dominant role in her novels. These limitations have occasioned some scathing criticisms on her works. H.W. Garrod complains of the monotonous uniformity of her materials. He says, "A drab scenery, the worse for use, a thin plot, unfashionable cut and a dozen or so stock a characters."

She is a novelist of a very limited range, but still her art is perfect. David Cecil tells us that Jane Austen's limitations stemmed from her choice of themes. He further said, "This nature of her talent, imposed a third limitation on her, it made her unable to express impulsive emotions...